The joint role of nurture and youth work in aiding transition

3rd July 2017

This week we present the work of Fiona Durrant, who investigated the role of nurture and youth work in aiding young people with transitions. She explored the similarities and differences between these two forms of support, highlighting the key components that make these approaches effective. She also offers ideas on what expertise and learnings could be shared between these interventions.

With the end of the school year approaching and many pupils transitioning to secondary or to the next key stage, the paper offers the opportunity for practitioners to reflect on the key skills needed to best support their students with these transitions periods. Fiona’s work also reminds us that collaborations across different types of interventions are essential to best support the needs of children and young people.

Her paper was published as part of the Volume 3 of the International Journal of Nurture in Education and can be accessed here.

The study

The research aimed to:

  • Identify the key similarities and differences between youth work and nurture provision
  • Highlight how each approach could benefit from the expertise of the other
  • Review the qualities required to best support young people during transition periods.

The research was undertaken in 2015 across Hampshire, where Fiona distributed a questionnaire to 57 professionals working in schools (teachers; pastoral workers; senior leadership staff) and external services (youth workers; CAMHS staff). Fiona also interviewed five of those who answered the questionnaire.


The questionnaire and interviews revealed key similarities between nurture and youth work. Both approaches:

  • Rely on positive relationships between professionals and young people, and without this the intervention cannot work;
  • Involve experiential styles of learning, rather than a didactic approach;
  • Aim to support young people needing additional support for emotional and social learning;

Fiona also identified a key set of qualities that allows staff to build positive relationships with young people they work with, whether they are nurture practitioners or youth workers. These are:

  • Emotional intelligence and empathy;
  • Being open minded and approachable;
  • And understanding that transition is more than just moving from one school to another.

Key differences between nurture and youth work relate to:

  • The nature of the relationship between the professional and the young people, with Fiona noting that the relationship was voluntary in youth work but compulsory in nurture provision;
  • The presence of nurture in school, and the importance of having a fixed base in the school environment for nurture;
  • The way impact is measured, with nurture benefiting from the Boxall Profile to assess social emotional functioning of young people and measure the impact of the intervention.

Because of the similarities highlighted by the study, Fiona concludes that both nurture and youth work would benefit from sharing learnings and expertise. For example, youth workers would benefit from learning about attachment, nurture provision and the Boxall profile, whereas nurture practitioners could learn about how best to deliver group work and build positive relationships.

Schools and youth workers may also be more effective if they worked together to meet the needs of the young people who are disengaged from learning, especially because youth work provide many opportunities to provide alternative educational opportunities for young people and to engage the wider community.


Overall, Fiona’s paper highlights that nurture and youth work share many similarities and that both types of intervention strongly rely on building positive and trusting relationships with young people. Both interventions would therefore learn a lot by collaborating and sharing expertise, which could in turn further improve the support offered to young people.

Fiona’s paper also echoes the importance of building bridges across different types of interventions. It reminds us that one form of support cannot single-handedly answer all the needs of children and young people. More effort should be put in place to create and nurture collaborations across different types of support – whether it is within the school, the local authority or at a wider level, so that joint strategies can altogether provide more effective and holistic support to children and young people.


If you would like to know more about Fiona’s research, you can access the full article here. For specific questions on her work, you can contact her at For general questions regarding nurture research, you can contact Dr Florence Ruby at